Fire Extinguishers for Apartments

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

Fire is one of the biggest threats to renters.   A small fire can turn into a large blaze in less than 30 seconds, according to   A big thank you to one of our readers who suggested we discuss fire extinguishers for apartments.

Where should you keep your fire extinguisher?

You need a fire extinguisher anywhere there is a risk of fire:  near a furnace, a garage if flammable substances are stored, and the kitchen.  If you only keep one in a small apartment, place it in the kitchen, where the risk of fire is greatest. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 47% of all reported fires were caused by cooking.

If you live in a multi-level unit, you should have a fire extinguisher in each level of your apartment. Always keep the fire extinguisher within easy view and reach.

We have a small, one level unit, so we keep ours under the kitchen sink.

How to choose one

Choose a fire extinguisher that is rated A-B-C so it can handle all three types of fires:

A: household items such as cloth, paper or wood

B: liquids that catch fire such as oil or gasoline

C: electrical

5 lb fire extinguisher is one you can easily grab and use.

Learn how to use it

We all know fire extinguishers as necessary to have but few ever consider having to use one until an emergency happens.  But the time to learn to use one is NOT when your apartment fire alarm goes off and you start to panic.   Learn to use it now.   A good way to remember is the acronym “PASS”  which stands for:

P – Pull the pin.  This step also breaks the seal of the fire extinguisher.

A – Aim the nozzle toward the base of the fire.  Avoid touching the plastic discharge nozzle on CO2 extinguishers as the contents get very cold and may cause damage to the skin.

S – Squeeze the trigger.

S – Sweep from side to side.

Watch the fire closely and repeat application if needed.

Assess the risk

Home fire extinguishers are made to fight small fires (also known as”incipient stage” fires).   One important note when attempting to fight a fire with your portable fire extinguisher:  assess your risk.  How can you tell?  Here are a few factors to quickly consider:

  • Size of the fire – Is the fire taller than your head?   Is the fire limited to the original material that started it?  For example, it is limited to the frying pan where the grease caught fire.
  • Air is still safe to breathe: the air is breathable and does not contain noxious gases, so no respiratory equipment is needed.
  • Minimal heat and smoke:  You feel a minimal amount of heat and the smoke is not affecting your vision, therefore no protective equipment is necessary.
  • Evacuation path:  The fire is not blocking anything and you are able to evacuate quickly.  Never turn your back from the fire and allow it to block an evacuation route.

Fires can quickly increase in size and intensity so you only have a short time to fight the fire yourself.

When to evacuate

If you have attempted to extinguish the fire and it has not gone out after the extinguisher is empty, leave immediately.

If the fire has grown and is becoming hazardous, leave immediately and escape to safety.   According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), if you have any doubt at all about being able to handle the fire, evacuate the area and call the fire department.


About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.


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  1. Very good information. Always remember the very 1st thing is to NOT PANIC. If the fire is to big just get out! I have had small grease fires several time most of these can be put out by putting a lid on the pan or another bigger pan over top of the burning pan. Just think 1st and do not panic. You can all so use baking soda to put out a small grease fire and electrical fire too. I keep my fire extinguisher in the pantry closet at the exit end of my very small apartment kitchen. It is mounted on the wall just inside the door at slightly above waist height so I always know just were it is. I check it every time I change the batteries in the smoke alarm (every time I change the clocks for daylight savings time). And I have to go to mandatory fire extinguisher training at work every 2 years. Very useful information.

  2. Also note that a fire extinguisher will work for about as many seconds as it weight. So a 5 pound extinguisher has about 5 seconds of full discharge.

    1. Hi oldguy, That is a good rule of thumb to remember – 5 lb fire extinguisher gives around 5 seconds of material. Thanks for the comment!

  3. My mother always keeps a big box of baking soda on a shelf next to the clothes dryer. I remember her having a fire in a clothes dryer when I was about 8 years (a long time ago) and she put it out by throwing the whole box full of baking soda it to the dryer and slamming the door shut.

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